Review: ‘Half Dozen’ at the Morlan Gallery

It's hard not to get swept up by the beautiful work done by our seniors. -Gabby Crooks

Friday, Mar. 1, was the opening of the seniors’ Half Dozen exhibition in Morlan Gallery. Jessie Dees, Samara Lyons, Josh Porter, Sarah Schaaf, Sonora Shuck and Stephanie Wayne are the six graduating art majors.

Photo by Gabby Crooks

Because each student has their own body of work, the exhibit was not necessarily themed. However, Sarah Schaaf’s scattering of poppies gives an element of cohesion. “16 Million” is a piece that pays tribute to the 16 million people who lost their lives as a result of World War I. Each of the watercolor poppies represents 160,000 individuals.

Schaaf’s pieces center around the tragedy and memory of World War I. “The Soldier” is a collection of photographs in lockets, sent to the artist by the families of the fallen. “Casualty” is a dark commentary on the sacrifice of war. Shellshock left soldiers psychologically battered while grievous physical wounds marked them for life.

Sonora Shuck’s “Necessary Rituals” is a mixed media piece that speaks to the fabric of the artist’s life. It is a self-portrait made of the crucial components of her existence; prescriptions, sticky notes, product packaging, and prints. Similarly, “Serotonin Syndrome” speaks to the necessity of happiness. It is an oil painting of the molecular structure of serotonin which gives perspective to mental illness.

“Necessary Rituals” By Sonora Schuck. Photo by Gabby Crooks.

Josh Porter’s “American Values: Broken Liberty” is a collection of potted plants hanging from the ceiling with strings of red, white, and blue. Liberty is the only exception. It lies shattered below Unity, Acceptance, Joy and others. An overt political statement, the piece laments what has been lost. If the pot can be glued together again, hope still remains for the value it represents.

“Confidant” is an oil painting by Porter. Its loose and painterly style gives the subject an out-of-focus quality, creating a dreamy aura around her. He is skillful with his ability to emulate form with such little verisimilitude.

“Tres Generaciones: Abuela, Mami y yo” by Stephanie Wayne. Photo by Gabby Crooks.

Stephanie Wayne’s “Tres Generaciones: Abuela, Mami y Yo” is a cotton triptych. She uses pattern to unify the images, and bright colors contrast simple lines and rich earth tones. Matriarchal power is exuded through the joy in the women’s faces—Wayne is celebrating the women who created her.

Wayne also makes a political statement, or rather a humanitarian one, with her piece “Myth; Realidad.” The smocks read “Immigration Is an Issue”, “The U.S. Is a Melting Pot that Welcomes All Immigrants,” “Legal Racialization Cast Immigrants As Permanently Foreign & Unmeltable,” and “Immigration Is a Humanitarian Issue.” It fits well with Porter’s “American Values: Broken Liberty,” echoing the social frustration of the nation.

Samara Lyons’ wooden sculptures are graceful figures that seem to dance around the exhibit. “Ballerina,” suspended delicately from the ceiling, is a permanent gallery viewer rejoicing in the accomplishments of the artists.

Jessie Dees mixed media piece “But Where am I?” depicts a young figure kneeling in front of a mirror. Viewers can pass behind or between the mirror and the hooded figure, choosing to interrupt or contextualize the titular question.

“Natural Beauty” by Jessie Dees. Photo by Gabby Crooks.

Natural Beauty” is another piece by Jessie Dees. A woman hangs her rose-covered head as she sits near a stricken tree. One of her feet has been cut off and is bandaged. The death and decay are juxtaposed by the rose that blooms in her hand and the flowers in her hair. But, one cannot necessarily say that the brokenness of the scene is not beautiful.

Half Dozen is a thought-provoking and varied body of work. The wide range of subject matter and media provide plenty of room for viewers to find something inspiring, interesting or beautiful. Clearly, Transy has produced a strong and talented group of artists.